Public transportation is, without question, the most common way to navigate and get around Paris. In fact, when giving directions, most locals use métro stops as destination points or local points of reference. The Paris public transportation system, operated by "Régie Autonome des Transports Parisiens" (RATP) includes the Metro (subway system), the bus, the tramway and the RER. Students can expect to use public transport, especially the métro, on a daily basis, and sometimes, several times a day.
Commutes around 25-35 minutes and sometimes more are commonplace and expected--it is simply a part of everyday Parisian life!
Aside from public transportation, many Parisians walk from one place to another. While the métro and public transit is convenient, the city is pedestrian friendly and walking is a great way to see the city, avoid too many connections, and get some exercise. Walking, rain or shine, is the norm when you would typically only need to go two métro stops away. A twenty- or thirty-minute walk is not long for Parisians, and quite efficient!
To learn more about the different ways to navigate Paris, please read the descriptions below.
The Paris Métro is one of the oldest, fastest and most efficient public underground rail systems in the world. Covering all neighborhoods of Paris with 14 different lines, the métro is an inexpensive and easy way to manoeuver this capital city. Most subway lines begin operating around 5:30AM and can run as late as 1:30AM. Click here to view an interactive map of the métro, RER and tram via the RATP website.
The RER is an extension of the Paris métro and goes further out of the city center and into the neighboring suburbs of Paris. This train also goes to such destinations as the CDG airport and Versailles. The RER can be a faster way to get from one point to another as it tends to have less stops than an average métro line. That said, there are often "express" trains that do not stop at all stations and may take you out to the suburbs directly--be sure to know what train you take! Click here to view a map of the RER via the RATP website.
The tramway is the newest addition to the Paris public transportation system. The tram has proven to be very helpful and efficient in connecting métro stops that would otherwise require a bit of a longer commute. The tram is an above-ground train that typically has connecting transfers with métro lines. Click here to view an interactive map of the Paris transport system via the RATP website, including the tramway lines.
While a tad more complicated than the métro, the bus system in Paris is also very convenient and practical. Click here to view a map of the Paris Bus system via the RATP website.
It is very important when taking a taxi in a foreign country to follow certain guidelines. Most main areas of Paris, and larger boulevards will have designated taxi stands where you can go to grab a taxi. The other option is to flag a taxi on the side of the road; however, beware of "independent" drivers who may offer you a ride. While they may have a working "taxi" light on the top of their car and a meter in their car, it is typically safer to go to taxi stands just to be sure.
In the taxi, make sure the car displays the name of the company and that the car has an official, working meter. Before you get into the car, you should tell the driver where you want to go to make sure they know how to get there. It is common to use the nearest métro stop of your intended destination. If you find a taxi driver that you like from a reputable company, ask for his card. Note that if you call a cab in advance, you will be asked to pay for the cab's journey to retrieve you, as well as for your actual trip.
It is certainly more expensive to travel by taxi on a daily basis than walking or taking the public transportation system. It may also take longer, due to traffic. In general, cabs are very expensive, but worth it if you are very tired, returning home late at night, or carrying a lot of luggage.
The best value for those who are in the city for several months is a Carte Navigo Mensuel, an unlimited access pass for one month. Students purchase the Carte Navigo to cover Zones 1 and 2 of Paris. This pass usually costs around 65€ and begins the first of each month. These cards are good for travel on the métro, RER (within the city), the tramway and the bus.
For those simply visiting Paris for a shorter time, a carnet, or booklet, of ten single pass tickets is the best way to go. These single tickets do not work for transfers between different types of transportation (i.e. métro to tram, RER to métro, etc.).
It is generally much more economical to buy carnets or a Carte Navigo month pass for all transportation, rather than buying individual tickets.
For more information on fares and restrictions, please visit the RATP website.